THE story behind a steel statue was brought to life as its creator pieced together its past for schoolchildren.
Pupils from Year 5 at Murton Ribbon Academy School held a question and answer session with Ray Lonsdale, who made the Eleven ‘O’ One artwork which has been put on display in Seaham.
The event was part of their First World War studies, with a trip to visit the piece, nicknamed Tommy by supporters, planned as part of the project.
They have also visited Beamish Museum and will write up their experiences in a report, with tips and pointers offered by the Echo.
Barry Newton, 10, who is among those to have already visited the display, said: “I think it’s really good, and I like the way all the pieces are different.”
Evie Miller, also 10, added: “It was really exciting to meet Ray and it was a surprise.
“The artwork is just amazing and I like how it makes you think about World War I and how it’s 100 years since it finished, and it’s the right time for this and it’s a bit different.”
Carly Robson, one of the year group’s teachers, said: “We heard about Tommy and it grabbed our attention and we thought it was something that was really interesting and we couldn’t let it pass us by. Lots of the children have been talking about how they’ve had a walk to Seaham to see it at the weekend.
“It’s really made them mindful of that time and we’ve been reading Stay Where You Are And Then Leave, but this sculpture has links to Murton and it’s something the children are hugely interested in.”
Ray, who is based in South Hetton, has based his piece on a soldier pictured in the moment that peacetime is called at 11.01am, and is inspired by stories of servicemen suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the tale of a Murton soldier who won a medal after it was raffled off by his boss in the trenches.
Ray said: “I think it’s flattering to be asked and they’ve taken a real interest in it and the First World War.”
Fans of the artwork, on show for a three-month loan period as part of an arrangement between Ray and Seaham Town Council, and the authority hope to raise the funds to keep it in place for good. If a VAT registered organisation buys it, the piece will cost £85,000, with the price at £102,000 needed if the tax cannot be reclaimed.
The Echo has launched Soldier On to support the effort.
Donations can be made via www.justgiving.com/Mission1101, with further details available through Facebook’s Mission 1101 page or the town council’s page.